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Candy Opera - Crucified

By Alan Metcalfe


In 1981, Kensington, Liverpool 6/7, was hardly the des res area of this fair city. Bedeviled by unemployment, it was a combination of ancient terraced streets (on the L7 side), and warren-like maisonettes (the L6 side) filled with council tenants who had been displaced from Everton in the late 70's (when the latter area was razed to the ground).  Moreover, heroin was starting to make its mark, and the dealers found easy prey amongst the disaffected youth of 'Kenny'.

But, on the notorious Phythian Estate (L6), a strange paradox emerged.  Amidst the faceless and identikit dwellings emerged two bands, both heavily influenced by Love's seminal 'Forever Changes' (and, later, the first two Aztec Camera singles).  The most well-known of these were the Pale Fountains, led by songwriting genius Mick Head.  Feted by the majors, they eventually signed to Virgin, for big brewsters, before being dropped and, eventually, re-emerging as Shack.  And that, constant reader, is either a story for another day or maybe one that you're sick of hearing.  It's a bit thingy, but its your call anyways.
But what of Candy Opera?  Although their acoustic pop did attract a flurry of interest, and excellent reviews in the NME, Jamming, every fanzine in the world and, er, the Echo, no deals were ever forthcoming.  As it was, though, they ploughed their Nick Drake / Beach Boys / Bread / Prefab Sprout-esque furrow for 14 years or so before eventually splitting up in 1995.  Over the years, their early demo's have become the holy grail for musos of a certain age and predilection, and, finally, the mysterious 'Loch Ness Monster Records' has come up with a limited compilation; a copy of which has made its way into my possession.
First the negative.  The recordings aren't pristine, and the band does wear its influences on its sleeve.  On the 'up' side, though, this is guitar-based pop that stands alongside anything by the current vogue of the day.  Tragically, they were the Martin Peters of their time ; twenty-odd years too early.  Had they been starting out today, then I would see them up there alongside the Arctic Monkeys, et al, particularly with - to these ears - one of the greatest songs ever written, 'With Yesterday in All the Right Places', and other stunning tracks such as 'Serious', 'Whip Crack Away', and 'Fever Pitch' (which the conspiracists claim that Nick Hornby robbed from a Tony Fletcher Candy Opera review in an issue of Jamming in 1984).  
Not sure how you can actually get hold of the thing, though, as the sleeve is pretty spartan, and there are only a couple of cursory references if you google (I've also tried Myspace and You Tube, without success).  Swear down, though, this is pop in its purest form, and I highly recommend it.  Compilation of this, or any other, year, by far.  Out of interest, there is also a Pale Fountains retrospective 'Longshot for your Love' which you should be able to pick up in HMV.







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